Ovenly: Growing a Business by Building Healthy Communities

Ovenly, a New York City retail and wholesale bakery business based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, was founded in 2010 by two female entrepreneurs, Agatha Kulaga and Erin Patinkin, who met in a food-focused book club as they both were looking to make a change in their careers and lives. Ovenly’s unique combination of savory and sweet quickly struck a chord with customers in search of delicious, elevated pastries, including tasty variations on classic treats, such as their salted chocolate chip cookie and their Brooklyn Blackout Cake. The company, which started with the pair working from their homes and renting space from a local pizza restaurant, currently has two retail locations and is growing fast. They now have 56 employees and are expanding to three new locations in the next 6 months.
Ovenly strives to “scale profits and business to create progressive social change,” putting a high premium on social responsibility. The company has

Erin Patinkin and Agatha Kulaga

implemented an open hiring policy, created strong benefits policies, and holds themselves to high environmental standards. Ovenly has had an open hiring policy since 2012, working with organizations such as Getting Out Staying Out, Drive Change, The Center for Economic Opportunity, and the Ansob Center for Refugees, to hire political refugees and citizens returning from the criminal justice system. Instead of a traditional interview process, candidates come in for a “trail” during which they shadow different positions for 4–6 hours to assess their skills and where they might fit.

These partnerships have not only given the team “some of the best staff members Ovenly has ever had,” but have created a curated talent pool based on the partners’ knowledge of their needs and ongoing support for their employees. Through these partnerships, they have been able to create higher levels of employee retention in a high turnover industry.

Ovenly’s commitment to their employees doesn’t stop at on-boarding. They also provide a number of benefits, including but not limited to: maternity and paternity leave, paid sick leave, free yoga, and a family meal at every shift. In addition to equipping their employees with extensive job skills training, they also provide training on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and environmentally sustainable kitchen practices such as composting. These training’s help their employees with personal development while also providing them with the skills to make their next professional step, at Ovenly or beyond. 
An active participant in the Best for NYC Campaign, Ovenly has used the Best for NYC Challenge to think through new benefits for their team, resulting in the creation of a Human Resources and Wellness role within the company. This team member uses the Challenge and Best for NYC website Best Practice Guides to create strategic changes. Ovenly is working on employee background and engagement surveys to understand their social impact more deeply. When asked about the future of the business, co-founder Kulaga stated, “Our aim is really to build healthful communities as we grow our business in NYC and beyond. Building healthful communities means creating jobs for our employees that are meaningful to them, that can help them advance their careers, but also create better life satisfaction for employees and their families.” Learn more about how you can use the Best for NYC Challenge to have your business recognized and improve NYC job quality here.